Friday, March 14, 2014

Ukraine: Russia punts ball down the field to gain time

Lavrov to punt ...
So Kerry and Lavrov met and walked on a soccer field, during a six-hour discussion of events in the Crimea and Ukraine. At the end of that session, they agreed to disagree:

Lavrov said Crimea was very important for Russia but added that he could not comment further on the upcoming referendum until its results were clear. "Crimea is immeasurably more important for Russia than the Falkland Islands for Britain and the Comoro Islands for France," he said, Interfax reported. "I am sure that if Kosovo was a special case, Crimea is as much special as Kosovo."

Western leaders have rebuked Russia for supposedly not holding a proper dialogue with both the current Ukrainian government and the international community. Russia has refused to acknowledge the new Ukrainian authorities, but Lavrov said that Russia-Ukraine cooperation had not stopped and that Ukraine could talk with Russia directly without using international mechanisms. It was unclear what form such communication could take.

Kerry had earlier presented Lavrov with proposals on Ukraine, offering to organize a contact group in order to establish a dialogue between the two countries. But Lavrov said the proposals were unsatisfactory since they were based on the notion that there was a "conflict between Russia and Ukraine."

Another deadline will come and pass, with the referendum in Crimea. After that, Putin’s Russia will accept the invitation from the voters of Crimea to join Russia, and take immediate steps to pour thousands of Russian troops (with insignia on, this time) and Russian technicians into Crimea. Within months, a bridge to link Crimea with Russia will be started, and the Russian portion of Crimea will have increased substantially from its current 2 million mark.

Meanwhile, the unrest in the Russian-speaking eastern enclaves in the Rest of Ukraine (ROU) will steadily increase, with more and more pro-Russian and anti-Russian violent clashes.

When unrest is clear in most of the ethnic Russian parts of the ROU, Russia will propose to the West the holding of referenda in those areas, and in the ROU, on a choice of independence, or a revision of the Ukranian constitution to allow immediate and substantial devolution of major powers to the various regions of the Ukraine. This will include extensive economic rights as well as police and security matters.

The Ukranian government will be in a difficult position – to refuse any referenda would cast it in the light of one ethnic group (the Ukranians) avoiding the issue of what to do with other ethnic groups in the eastern part of Ukraine.

The EU and the US will make a counter-proposal: that the referenda be monitored and run by a UN team of observers. Russia will agree, as long as the actual question of the referendum, and the majority needed for success, is acceptable to itself.

The Ukraine will then hold the referenda, and a new federation will see the light of day.

That’s my take on where the soccer ball stops rolling, for a while.


  1. "Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and John Kerry agreed
    to continue work to find a resolution on Ukraine through a speedy launch
    of constitutional reform with the support of international community,"
    the ministry said in a statement.

  2. Russian Foreign
    Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on
    Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for
    constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said.

  3. It did not go into details on the kind of
    reforms needed except to say they should come "in a generally acceptable
    form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of

    There was no immediate confirmation from Washington.

  4. "Further to discussions that the United States has had with Russia,
    our European partners and the government of Ukraine, Secretary Kerry
    also drew attention to the broad multi-party constitutional reform
    process already under way in the Ukrainian Rada," said the official,
    referring to the parliament.

    "He urged Russia to support efforts
    by Ukrainians across the spectrum to address power sharing and
    decentralization through a constitutional reform process that is broadly
    inclusive and protects the rights of minorities."

    In Moscow, the
    Russian foreign ministry said Kerry assured Lavrov that Washington is
    already conducting all the necessary work and expects that it will soon
    bring positive results."

  5. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said reforms aimed at the
    decentralization of the country's administration will be conducted in
    the country and all changes will be outlined in the new edition of the
    Ukrainian Constitution.

    "Regarding the expansion of the powers of the regions. We have
    introduced a special position of deputy prime minister in the
    government, whose main task will be the decentralization of the
    administration. This large-scale reform will be conducted while
    preserving the unity of Ukraine, which will give the regions, cities,
    and districts broad powers and funding needed for the development of the
    regions," he said in his address to the residents of the southern and
    eastern regions of Ukraine.

    "This will primarily affect healthcare and the housing and utilities
    sector. Municipal police will be created. Local specifics will be taken
    into account in issues relating to education, culture, history, and its
    heroes," Yatseniuk said.

    "The parliamentary and presidential form of governance, to which we
    have returned, will make it possible to take into account the interests
    of all regions, instead of forcing the will of one region against other
    regions. Next year, you will elect mayors and local councils with
    broader powers, and these councils will form executive committees, which
    will run the regions instead of people appointed from Kyiv," he said.

    "All changes associated with the decentralization of the
    administration will be reflected in the new Constitution. We should
    write the Constitution together," Yatseniuk said.

  6. "The United States believes that Russia might decide to go into eastern Ukraine to establish a land bridge into Crimea.

    The belief is that Russian forces would move toward three Ukrainian
    cities: Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk in order to establish land access
    into Crimea. Russian forces are currently positioned in and around
    Rostov, Kursk, and Belgorod, according to U.S. intelligence information." April 27 2014 - CNN Security Blogs

  7. March 28: "Deposed Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych on Friday called for
    nationwide referendums to be held across the country to determine the
    future status of every Ukrainian region.

    "As president who is with
    you in thought and soul, I ask every single sensible citizen of Ukraine
    not to let yourselves be used by the imposters! Demand a referendum on
    determining the status of every region in Ukraine," Yanukovych said in a
    statement quoted by Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency."

  8. New York Times March 29 2014:
    "Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov have been passing a “working document” back and
    forth that explores ways for the Russians to pull back militarily, as
    well as ideas for how the international community could support
    constitutional reform in Ukraine. Among other things, it could include
    guaranteeing more autonomy for certain regions, disarming the militias
    that have emerged and defining Ukraine’s relationship to international
    alliances like NATO."

  9. March 29 2014 The Guardian:
    "[Russian Foreign Minister] Lavrov called for "deep constitutional reform" in Ukraine, a sprawling
    country of 46 million people. "Frankly, we don't see any other way for
    the steady development of the Ukrainian state apart from as a
    federation," Lavrov said. Each region, he said, would have jurisdiction
    over its economy, finances, culture, language, education and "external
    economic and cultural connections with neighbouring countries or

  10. April 8:

    "Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that representatives of pro-Russian elements in eastern and southern Ukraine should be allowed to participate in multilateral talks with Russia, the U.S., the European Union and the new government in Kiev.
    He accused Kiev of ignoring the interests of those parts of the country and said the crisis couldn't be resolved without taking them into account."

  11. April 11 2014:

    Kiev offered sweeping autonomous powers to regional governments in an attempt
    to defuse attempts by pro-Russian protesters to establish separatist
    republics in the east of Ukraine.

    Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the acting prime minister, told regional leaders and
    businessmen in Donetsk that parliament should consider a “law on referendums
    … to allow regions to decide issues of key importance to them”.

    “Executive committers of each region will be handed all financial, economic,
    administrative and other powers so they control their own territories,
    giving them the ability to develop these territories to attract investment
    and receive additional income for each region by amending the budget law of
    Ukraine,” he said.

    “The central government is ready not only for dialogue with the regions, but
    to meet legal demands and wishes of every resident of the country.”

    The devolution of power to the regions is a significant concession to demands
    from Moscow that Ukraine
    switches to a federal system of power to guarantee the rights of
    Russian-speakers living in the country’s east and south."
    The Telegraph


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